Tuesday, 21 January 2014

REVIEW - JIMMY P.


A curious, and curiously interesting film, not least in the obscure true story it adapts, and the two idiosyncratic characters it examines. Subtitled 'Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian', Jimmy P. is more about said psychotherapy than this Plains Indian's (Jimmy himself) psychic state. The film is more interested in the external peculiarities of Jimmy Picard and his anthropologist counsellor, Georges Devereux. These are distinctly offbeat persons, incarnated here by Benicio del Toro and Matheiu Amalric by offbeat performances, though not incomprehensibly so. Del Toro in particular suffuses his role with inflections of spontaneous humanity, a casualness and a vulnerability which make Jimmy one of the screen's most intriguing protagonists of late. And since Arnaud Desplechin appears to have little desire to venture any further than to merely catalogue the events of his treatment, having suffered a head injury in WWII, he remains intriguing throughout; we never quite learn what is going on inside that damaged mind, and even what caused it (childhood traumas, mostly, and predictably) is not made wholly clear. We do understand Jimmy, though, and we do feel a genuine sympathy for him. The lack of clarity coupled with Desplechin's subtly edgy style - hand-held cameras, rigorous mise-en-scene, a slight reluctance to trouble the water - contribute to a cold but not detached atmosphere. There's a mild feeling of observation, but rather than through the eyes of either of the leads or through even the camera's lens, it's like the observation of a spirit, or a fly on the wall. And Howard Shore's sombre score, thick with horns yet thin in texture, sets the mood off by another notch, and the overall effect is quite new, if not quite refreshing. A few inconsequential detours slow the film down a lot, and less attention on Amalric's Devereux mightn't have been unwarranted, but the compelling del Toro helps put things back on track each time he's on screen.